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Personal Perspective: Here’s Why Ohio Is Poised for Decades of Job Growth

We expect market demands to drive other high-value, power-hungry manufacturers to make significant investments in Voltage Valley. These new facilities will be needed to produce the silicon, polymer and glass inputs needed for the growing electric vehicle, semiconductor and photovoltaic industries in the region. The Ohio River Valley has a history of delivering large, energy-intensive projects, and we have unique strengths for this development.

When the Piketon Gaseous Diffusion Plant was commissioned in 1952, it consumed 5% of all the electricity used in the United States. At peak operation, the unit could use over 40 million gallons of water per day for cooling.

In 2011 it was shut down and decommissioned by the Department of Energy after a 10-year standby period. In the first phase of recommissioning, 248 acres of the site will be developed by Newpoint Gas. Phase 1 of the $1.5 billion plant will include up to 300 megawatts of power generation capacity and provide 500 metric tons per day of clean hydrogen for use in advanced primary production of low-emission cement of carbon, sustainable raw materials and green ammonia. In addition to producing hydrogen which can be used in the manufacture of clean steel and cement, the facility can also be used to create silica as a feedstock for the solar panel and semiconductor industries.

At the edge of Voltage Valley in the hills of Kentucky lies one of the world’s most valuable fossil fuel deposits. Kentucky’s Blue Gem Coal seam produces ultra-low sulfur coking coal that is coveted by semiconductor manufacturers. This raw material goes into arc furnaces with raw silica to produce the 99.9% pure silicon needed to manufacture semiconductors.

Ferro Global’s recent agreement to supply silicon from its Beverly, Ohio smelter to Renewable Energy Corp.’s processing plant. (REC) in Montana shows how far companies will go to obtain these prime raw materials.

We expect these types of investments to be reflected in Hemlock Semiconductor’s silicon refinery in central Michigan. Currently, US silicon production is around 60,000 metric tons per year, evenly split between REC and Hemlock. We expect that due to outsourcing efforts in semiconductor and solar panel manufacturing, demand for silicon in the United States will double in the coming years. The Appalachian Triangle and Pennsylvania provide the right clean manufacturing ecosystem to produce the additional 60,000 metric tons of silicon.

On the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland-Cliffs, North America’s largest flat steel and iron ore producer, has a new steelmaking plant in Toledo that produces 25% less carbon dioxide per ton of steel fabrication. This facility uses the direct reduction of iron oxide using clean hydrogen instead of coal in the furnace. With nearly 30,000 acres of solar power plants under development or under consideration in Ohio, we anticipate a deep decarbonization of the steelmaking supply chain in Tension Valley.

Ohio’s Voltage Valley provides access to all the inputs needed for advanced 21st century manufacturing. Over the next 10 years, regional policymakers, regulators and businesses can rewrite the advanced manufacturing playbook.

Relocating these jobs from places with abysmal records on environmental, human rights and climate issues to the Voltage Valley clean manufacturing ecosystem will serve as an example to the world of what should look like manufacturing in the 21st century and beyond.

It is imperative that government regulators and legislatures provide incentives for clean energy, distributed energy resources, permits, and policy coordination. Ohio will benefit from thousands of new high-paying jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in new investments.

Meanwhile, clean technologies will pave the way for companies to locate their operations here to meet their carbon reduction goals. If we remain at the forefront of this clean energy technology trend, maintaining and improving the business ecosystem will ensure decades of job growth in Ohio.

Paolillo is Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Advanced Technologies at JW Didado Electric. He is also a guest lecturer on Leadership and Lean Building Science at the University of Akron. Murray is an entrepreneur in the solar industry with over 10 years of experience in the research, development, manufacturing and implementation of photovoltaic products and systems.